OXFORD, Ohio – As Ohio’s pantries end their busiest season, Feeding America estimates they will help 1.5 million people across the state put food on the table, including hundreds in Oxford, Ohio.
Just blocks from the University of Miami, more than 250 families will stop by the Talawanda Oxford Pantry and Social Services complex to get help this holiday season from a new face in pantry leadership.
Sherry Martin took office in November after former executive director Ann Fuehrer stepped down to focus on economic injustice initiatives.
“It really is my dream job so I kind of jumped on it,” Martin said.
A lifelong Oxford resident, Martin has volunteered with TOPSS since 2017 and served as secretary of the board for over two years before taking up her new role a few weeks before Thanksgiving.
“It was crazy timing, but it worked so far,” she said.
Martin credits her pantry experience for helping keep her head above water for her first holiday season leading TOPSS staff, volunteers and handing out over $ 10,000 in prepaid cards and bags. -gifts to families in need.
“I think it’s just all the moving parts and keeping them organized,” she said.
Martin said his time as a volunteer opened his eyes to the needs of Oxford.
According to the US census, 47.5% of the community lives below the poverty line and Martin said she sees many familiar faces coming to the pantry month after month.
“They are people from Oxford, so I’ve known them all my life,” she said.
During Führer’s tenure as executive director, pantry services expanded to include a mobile pantry and deliveries, in addition to the curbside shopping that the establishment offers three times a week.
Martin said she hopes to keep that growth going and find more ways to serve more people more often.
“I really want to work to try to serve the homeless better because the way we’re set up is really for families,” she said.
As affordable housing becomes harder to find in Oxford, Martin said she has seen the problem worsen.
“I spoke to a lady this morning who said she just walks around at night and then during the day she sleeps at someone’s house, the one who would let her take a nap,” she said.
Under these circumstances, Martin said it was not possible to come to the pantry every two weeks to stock up on food and toiletries.
“I wish they could have a different schedule for them where they can get more food more often so they don’t have to take so much with them,” she said.
Martin said the immediate pantry needs are donations of ready-to-eat foods or foods that require minimal cooking as well as personal care items like soap, toothpaste and diapers.
As she enters the New Year, she said she hopes to get the ball rolling and find new ways to serve her neighbors.
“They know me and I know them,” she said.